Workplace interaction petered out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees have been quarantined at home, away from the office. Many are returning, some willing and others not, from high-stress environment where the impact of COVID-19 still lingers. In the face of all the stressors, workplace violence and security threats are more pressing now than they have been in recent years.
Workplace violence (WPV) is any event or situation involving violent actions in the workplace. Some of these include violence following an employee’s termination, intrusion from a partner or ex-partner, attacks by strangers, arson, bomb threats, and active shooter events.
While active shooter events can be extremely devastating, they are quite rare, with 227 occurring between 2000 and 2018 (per the FBI). However, the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey reports that 572,000 nonfatal violent crimes occurred to people in their place of work in 2009, around half of which were by strangers to the victim. According to the CDC, 20,790 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2018. These are staggering statistics, but there are ways to mitigate some of these dangers.
Awareness and coordination are key. If an event occurs, there should already be a policy in place to protect and help those affected. Courses, videos, drills, webinars, townhalls can all help inform tenants and property managers. Having plans in place and knowledge of possible threats and how to respond to them can help mitigate threats and put tenants more at ease.
In the unfortunate event of a bomb threat, an understanding of “suspicious packages” as well other kinds of bombs can help identify them. Asking local law enforcement to participate in seminars on bomb threats (and show inert examples) can be a good way to inform tenants and encourage them to be vigilant.
Law enforcement only handles bomb threats if the suspicious package is found. If not found, the burden to search or evacuate the premises is on the property manager and tenants. Having drills, speaking with service coordinators, having a plan in place, and training on how to deal with and react to WPV may help mitigate them.
In the extremely unfortunate event of an active shooter, what plan is in place? Will tenants evacuate or shelter in place? Are there code words that can be broadcasted (such as Code Silver or Code Black)? Who takes charge?
WPV events should be addressed through prior plans and discussions. With safe, well run drills practiced regularly, threats can be mitigated, and tenants put more at ease. Think of fire drills, they are regular, and most people know what to do in the event of a fire because of them. Other extreme events are similar, run drills to prepare and have a plan in place should they ever occur.
Active shooter events last only 5 – 10 minutes, and usually end before police arrive. There is almost no time to decide what to do if there is an active shooter event, and when time is precious, preparedness can mean the difference between safety and grievous harm or worse. Here are a few tips on conducting active-shooter training, courtesy of Molly Looman.
As Joe Murphy with Prosegur Security puts it, “Make sure everyone knows what to do when something happens, who goes where, who coordinates.” Be aware and be prepared.
Having security personnel integrated within building operations and up to date on the events on the horizon can help mitigate threats as well. Around 50 percent of workplace violence is perpetrated by strangers to the victim. Security personnel learn to recognize oddities in the office and can help stop office creepers and potential threats by engaging with and deterring them.
As people return to work, workplace violence and security threats are more pressing now than they have been in years, but preparedness and knowledge can help mitigate and address threats as they knock at your door.
Sources Workplace Violence, 1993-2009 (bjs.gov) Occupational Violence - Fast Facts | NIOSH | CDC Quick Look: 277 Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000-2018 — FBI Joseph Murphy, insight and explanation, “How to prepare for the worst” Insight 3. 2016. p18-20., and “The Human Factor and Disaster.”
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